Standing on Hallowed Ground…

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster

My wife and I recently took a weeklong bus trip to Boston.

Neav enjoyed her first bowl of clam chowder and I enjoyed a lobster quesadilla as we dined with friends at some Boston harbor eateries.

We also spent time in Salem, Massachusetts where the famous witch trials and executions took place in 1692 and 1693.

But the highlight for me was the day we visited Lexington and Concord where the American Revolution started.

We visited Lexington first and stopped at the green where British Redcoats, numbering 1,700 and about 77 local militiamen first faced off.

British troops had marched to the area in search of arms and munitions.

But the locals had established a pretty good underground communications network and so they were able to move and hide their guns and ammo elsewhere.

Today on the Lexington green is a statue of Paul Revere as well as a stone marker with these words from the militiaman commander, Captain Parker, carved into the rock.

“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here”.

Above the inscription is a long rifle carved into the marker, pointing to where the militiamen stood while the imposing Redcoat forces marched into Lexington.

It is reported that a British major yelled, “Throw down your arms! Ye villains, ye rebels.”

There are reports that Captain Parker had ordered his militiamen to end the face-off.

But a shot rang out and when the smoke cleared, 8 militiamen were killed and 9 were wounded while the British had one soldier wounded.

Those 8 slain militiamen are memorialized around a statue on the Lexington green.

I walked those grounds and saw all these monuments and when my wife caught up to me, I asked her if she truly realized where we were standing.

I was overwhelmed by the historical power of that area.

I mentioned that the locals had a pretty good network of informants and spies to track the movement of British troops.

When they got word that the Brits were on the way to locate troublemakers Sam Adams and John Hancock as well as munitions, that’s when the word was spread.

Prior to the day’s event, locals were told to observe the tower in the Old North Church in Boston as to how the Redcoats would be coming.

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized the event with “One if by land, and two, if by sea” in his writing about Paul Revere’s ride.

Paul Revere and William Dawes set off to spread the word on horseback.

Revere was captured by a British patrol but later released and Dawes wound up having to walk back to Lexington after a mishap.

The distance from Lexington to Concord is about 18 miles so while the British troops were on their march, word of what happened in Lexington spread to neighboring communities.

Militiamen gathered and headed to the area between Lexington and Concord.

Arriving in Concord, the British found little they were looking for so they began to burn things, including wagons that they could have used to get their wounded back to Boston.

When the local people saw the smoke from the fires, they assumed the Brits were burning Concord to the ground.

When the Redcoats met the militiamen at the North River Bridge, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “shot heard ’round the world” happened.

The numbers of militiamen had swelled to 3,500 so when the British began a hasty retreat back to Lexington and eventually Boston, some 250 of them were killed or wounded. Militiamen losses were less than 100.

It’s important to note that in those days, with medical care the way it was, a wound usually resulted in death within a few days.

There are places yet today along the route that the British retreated that are marked by large rocks and a British flag flying.

Those mark the final resting places of Redcoats that were buried by the local farmers and landowners in the battle.

Each one I noted provoked a deep sigh from me.

We got to see the Old North Church as well as the sight of the Boston massacre and visited Boston Harbor where the “Boston Tea Party” took place.

But the events which started what we refer to as the Revolutionary War started on the morning on April 19, 1775.

“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here”.

It actually began with the “Sugar Act” and the “Stamp Act” as “taxation without representation” became a sticking point.

To stand on the green of Lexington would have to evoke similar feelings as you might

experience standing on the beaches of Normandy or other noted battlefields.

It’s a feeling of awe and history I won’t soon forget.


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